Tahiti has a reputation for being expensive and you can certainly do the whole 5-star overwater bungalow, posh dinners and phenomenal diving trips to far away beaches. But if you want to take advantage of the cheap airfares to Tahiti and stay in a brand spanking and stunning, self-catering property where you can cook your own dinner fresh from the market, eat gooey French cheeses and fresh baguettes and quaff some cheap French wine – then you can.
I’ve just come back from 3 whistle-stop days on Papeete staying at the Manava Suite Resort. This brand new apartment-style hotel has most rooms with kitchens (including all the mod cons) and is only 100m from a bottle store so you can nip out and get yourself a little happy hour sustenance before dinner.
They have their own restaurant but if you want to try something more local, wander 500m down the road where you can sit on a humble wooden deck with the ocean lapping underneath.
A bus – or more accurately a truck with 2 bench seats down each side – will take you into downtown Papeete. It’s about 15 mins away so I suggest you go in about mid-afternoon after a day lazing by the Manava Suites stunning infinity pool, hit the pearl market and drink a Hinano beer at one of the local bars, then eat at the Roulottes.
This is an area at the port where caravans come in at night, fling their sides open and cook fresh and fast food like tuna steaks, pizza, Chinese, crepes for about NZ$20. Nightclubs rock till about 3am so after dinner put your dancing shoes on and practice your dance moves.
Taking the ferry to Moorea is also a fun (and inexpensive – under NZ$20 one way) thing to do. About 45 mins and you’re there. I suggest you hire a car to go exploring but if you want to splash out and treat yourselves, organise a picnic lunch on a motu (island) through the Intercontinental Hotel. You’ll love the fresh poisson cru (fish with lime, fresh coconut milk cracked open in front of you and tossed with onions and tomatoes). Sopped up with fresh crispy baguettes and you;ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven.
You can also swim with dolphins here – AND these ones are retired navy “seals”. They used to work for the US navy detecting bombs in ships. True!